I do not normally write long reviews but because this is a new hotel, it may be useful for not only westerner visitors but the hotel itself.
The hotel is located in the suburb of Sonbei far from the
city center but easy to reach by using bus #47 or a taxi. This is actually part of its charm. The area is upper middle class; nearby is a large mall that houses the world's largest indoor ski slope. Additionally the mall's food court must be seen to be believed as it occupies most of the third floor. This location gives a westerner the opportunity to see a different aspect of Chinese culture. For the most part you can observe and will be totally ignored (if you have traveled in China you will know that this is quite rare).
Upon entering the hotel you will be arrive at reception and quickly realize that the hotel is not catering to westerners. One of my biggest complaints is the poor level of English spoken by nearly all of the staff. Personally I would love to speak more Chinese but one expects more of a Crowne Plaza. I actually went to a small hotel near the train station to get directions and their reception staff spoke much better English. You will also seen a sign instructing rewards members to a special desk but I only rarely saw anyone there and it was often a young man from Kazakhstan who spoke very little English. I assume he was to cater to Russian guests but I never saw any Chinese during my three nights.
I was assigned a king room and when I got to the room, I encountered three construction workers just lazing about. I went back to reception and was given a suite (I am a platinum member). The suite was extremely nice and exceeded my expectations.
Concierge services were also an interesting experience. Their english was also limited but they really tried to help. As an example I wanted to purchase a new battery for my cell phone. They actually had a bell boy walk with me for about 20 minutes to inquire at a local shop. Clearly this is not to be expected of most Crowne Plaza hotels. When I tried to obtain money from the lobby ATM it was empty. Concierge explained that it should be refilled by Monday but this was Friday and I really needed cash. I went back to my room and received a call from the GSM (who actually spoke nearly perfect English). She explained that the head of concierge had gone next door to their sister hotel and discovered that they did have cash in their ATM. I came downstairs and concierge escorted me.
Breakfast is another interesting experience. The choices are quite varied and the offerings are both Chinese and Western. However, hygiene is a different matter. They have both cereal and canned fruit in large bowls. However, the spoons are small and often end up in the bowls. No problem as most guests simply put their hands in the food and retrieve the spoons. The solution is simple, either get much larger spoons or purchase some cereal dispensers.
The pool is another experience; it was always empty and the temperature maintained at a chilly 26 degrees C. I prefer much warmer but the hotel believes 26 is optimal. There is no jacuzzi so it will be very cold getting out of the water.
My best experience by far was in the Executive Lounge. Although choices are limited at evening happy hour, the staff tries their best. One evening they brought me a special fruit plate after they realized I was not eating the meat dishes. Christina (her given English name, I do not remember her Chinese name), was an amazing employee. I mentioned to her that I wanted to visit hot springs in the nearby town of Lingdian. I had obtained the name of a hotel but nothing more. She called the hotel, made me reservations at a discounted price but the hotel would not accept a credit card. She quickly resolved the problem by transferring money from her account and I gave her the money in cash. I was a bit surprised but she insisted it was ok. She then contacted the local taxi company in Daqing and arranged for a taxi to meet me at the train station to take me to Lingdian. She then gave me her contact information and said to call her if I had any problems. The next day I traveled to Daqing and my train was late leaving Harbin. When I arrived of course there was no taxi waiting. I reluctantly called Christina who immediately made new arrangements. The fact that she did this was very nice but what makes her very special indeed, is that she did this on her day off!
To sum up my review I highly recommend the hotel for a westerner who is looking for a very different Chinese experience. This hotel would not be suited to someone who wants to experience Central Avenue and downtown Harbin but I much preferred this Crowne Plaza and hope to visit again [Less]